Building Social Skills in Your Child Without Losing Your MindApr 08, 2022
Do you struggle with how to help your child in their peer relationships or sibling relationships? Does your child struggle to make friends? Children with sensory processing challenges that show up as reactive behaviors tend to struggle with how to act in social situations. Social interactions are full of subtle cues and hidden rules that children with sensory issues struggle to notice. These dynamics put stress on parents struggling to cope with the embarrassment and discipline struggles that arise out of social situations. Siblings also become affected by these day-to-day struggles because their sensory sensitive sibling may act out with aggression at home or act out inappropriately in social situations in public that cause embarrassment. The sensory sensitive child struggles intensely with social situations. They are easily triggered by seemingly small interactions like being bumped by another child. The smell of another child’s sandwich, bright lights, too much noise, or the texture of the mashed potatoes can set off a fight, flight, or freeze response in the child’s brain. Does any of this sound familiar?
What do we mean by social skills? Knowing how to act in different social situations and knowing how to play is often taken for granted. These are skills we typically pick up along the way, but for kids with autism and other sensory challenges social skills need to be directly taught at school, in therapies like OT, speech, psychologists, or other professionals, and at home. For other children that can pick up social skills more readily, things like impulse control and a short attention span can get in the way.
10 Ways to Support Our Kids in Building Social Skills
- Empathetic Connection
- Support from professionals
- Allow your child room to fail, to be frustrated and disappointed (it’s part of being human).
- Set up play dates where your child has a high chance of having an enjoyable experience.
- Listen deeply to your child.
- Talk with your child about their social struggles and give encouragement.
- Give your child plenty of physical space when your child needs to calm down.
- Build your child’s self-esteem by focusing on the positive.
- Be your child’s advocate not adversary.
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